Wednesday 13 November 2019

Independent TDs and senators run up €35,000 entertainment bill

Michael McDowell Photo: Collins
Michael McDowell Photo: Collins

Darragh McDonagh

Independent TDs and senators spent more than €35,000 of taxpayers' money on entertainment last year, under an allowance intended to support their parliamentary activities.

Bar tabs and food bills from exclusive hotels, wine bars and restaurants were among the items that were paid for under the publicly funded Parliamentary Activities Allowance (PAA), according to official documents.

Almost €635,000 was spent by independent Oireachtas members under the scheme during 2016.

Most of the money was used for items under the headings of research, training, policy formulation, and consultancy services.

However, 22 of the 43 independent TDs and senators who were eligible for the PAA last year also claimed expenses totalling €35,345 for entertainment, which is an allowable category under the scheme.

Among the items paid for under the PAA was a bill for €1,339 from the Exchequer Wine Bar, which was claimed by senator and former Tánaiste Michael McDowell.

The entertainment expenses of Transport Minister Shane Ross amounted to some €3,940.70.

This included a party for volunteers in Leinster House that racked up a food bill of €149 and a bar tab of €364.

And he also claimed expenses under the PAA in respect of a 100th birthday party, which was attended by about nine people.

As well as costing €169 for food, it ran up a drinks bill of €108.40.

Minister John Halligan spent a total of €2,199 on entertainment under the PAA.

This included a "band night" that cost €335, as well as a "staff gathering - morale boost" that cost €234.

The highest amount that was spent on entertainment under the allowance was the €4,489.20 by Independent Alliance TD Sean Canney, who was a minister of state until last month.

This was followed by the €3,940 spent by Mr Ross, and €3,442 spent by Senator Gerard Craughwell.

Kevin 'Boxer' Moran, who succeeded Mr Canney as Minister of State, spent €3,348 of the allowance on entertainment, while Children's Minister Katherine Zappone spent €2,923 under the same heading.

Senator Victor Boyhan spent €169.29 of the allowance at the five-star Westbury Hotel in Dublin.

And a bill for €91.10 from Rustic Stone - a restaurant run by the celebrity chef Dylan McGrath - was paid for under the scheme by Senator Fiach Mac Conghail.

Independent TDs and senators are entitled to claim expenses in relation to items arising from their parliamentary activities.

This includes technical or specialist advice, research and training, and polling or public attitude sampling.

TDs can claim a maximum of €37,037 per annum under the allowance, while unspent amounts are carried forward.

Senators are entitled to a maximum of €21,045 for the same purpose.

Of the 43 current and former independent Oireachtas members entitled to claim expenses under the PAA last year, 21 made no claims for costs incurred in respect of entertainment.

Irish Independent

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